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Familiar faces delivering students' meals to bus stops, front doors in Metro East

The Triad School District is spread out over 121 square miles, so they are using their buses as delivery vehicles

TROY, Ill. — Triad Community Unit School District #2 is one of many districts across Illinois and Missouri finding a way to provide school lunches to students, even as they’re forced to learn from home. 

Unlike more centralized districts, Triad has the added challenge of overcoming distance; the district includes students from Pre-K to 12th grade, spread across three towns and 121 square miles.

“As a rural district, we have a lot of remote areas where houses could be quite a distance away,” said Superintendent Leigh Lewis.

Triad owns its buses, so its drivers are employed by the school, rather than by a third party. That’s made it more seamless for the Metro-East school district to get meals to even its most remote students across Troy, St. Jacob, and Marine, Illinois.

“We’ve managed to get our smaller buses and a couple drivers who are willing to do door-to-door service to our families who might not otherwise be able to get to a bus stop,” said Lewis.

For students who are able to make it to their regular bus stops, drivers will make deliveries between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. every weekday. Something familiar for students and drivers in this unfamiliar time.

“This is a daily event,” said 71-year-old driver Gregory Puent. “We’re used to getting up in the morning, saying hello to them. Big smile on their face puts a big smile on my face.”

Volunteers and staff loaded an estimated 2,200 bags, filled with lunches and breakfasts, onto 30 buses at Triad High School Wednesday morning. Food services employees prepared the meals in the school’s cafeteria; 600 more today than their inaugural run on Tuesday.

“As a mom with two kids in the district, it’s unbelievable the way this community has risen up at this time,” said Jamie Johns, a security monitor at Triad High School helping with the meal effort. “They’re out here making sure every kid gets fed, and that warms my heart to the nth degree.”

Triad is providing meals for all of its students, not just those who receive free school lunches. It said it secured funding for the program via a National School Lunch Program waiver, like many other public schools.

Other programs and districts have come up with their own ways to feed students while schools are closed.

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